Healthy Tahoe: A parent’s role in youth sports
Sports are a powerful part of growing up, offering physical, mental, and social health benefits. As parents, we want to encourage and empower our children to challenge themselves in sports, while also keeping them safe from harm. The best way to prepare as a parent is to focus on what we can control, and that is prevention and response.
Across youth athletics, prevention begins with safe practices; adherence to the rules of a particular sport, adequate nutrition and hydration, considerations about proper gear, and early treatment of injury can all help lower the likelihood of serious injuries in high-risk sports.
Another key of injury prevention is the sports physical, usually required before starting any sport. Sports physical exams assess the child’s overall health and wellness, and may include: a review of the child’s medical history; a physical examination to measure strength, flexibility and posture; screening for conditions such as eating disorders, anxiety, or other mental health disorders; and screening for drug, energy drink, or alcohol abuse. During this time, the provider can also spot any current injury and diagnose any health condition that could increase your child’s risk of getting hurt.
Children can get a sports physical during their annual wellness exam with their primary care provider or through local sports physical events, if offered. Sports physical events should not take the place of your child’s annual wellness exam.
Equally important to injury prevention is how to respond if injury occurs. Some of the most common youth sports injuries include sprains and strains, fractures, and concussions. Knowing who to call if your child gets hurt can help them receive the right help and cut down on crucial recovery time. Your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider can perform an exam and connect you with a network of providers and specialists, such as orthopedists, sports medicine physicians, physical therapists, concussion specialists, or mental health professionals, who provide expert care and the best chance of a speedy recovery. Or, if your child’s provider is not open or available, urgent care and quick care centers, or the emergency department, are options depending on the urgency and level of care needed.
While sports are associated with better mood and improved mental health, playing sports does not make athletes immune to mental health challenges. High pressure in sports, especially with added stressors of school expectations, jobs, and social life can have a long-term impact on your child’s emotional well-being. These elements have the potential to lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. It is also not uncommon for a young athlete to hide or minimize an injury due to their strong desire to continue playing or not wanting to disappoint anyone. Burnout is also a common experience and is often under-recognized. It’s important for parents and coaches to be mindful of these possibilities and address them accordingly for the child’s overall well-being.
As a supporting role for your child, how you support them matters. By building a community of trusted partners that may include family members, athletic trainers, coaches, peers, and health care providers, you can prevent and respond to injuries, giving your child the best possible athletic experience.
Dr. Katie Gollotto is a board-certified sports and physical medicine specialist offering non-surgical orthopedics and sports medicine solutions to the active Lake Tahoe community. Free sports physicals are offered at Stateline Urgent Care on Sundays in May from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and for South Tahoe High School and South Tahoe Middle School students, sports physicals will be offered from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 5 at the Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness, located at 2170B South Ave in South Lake Tahoe. Physicals are available by walk-in only. To learn more about Barton’s Sports and Physical Medicine services, call 775-589-8915 or visit BartonHealth.org/PhysicalMedicine.
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